Phencyclidine, more commonly referred to as “PCP”, “angel dust”, “lovely”, “wack”, “zoom” “shermans”, “rocket fuel”, “supergrass” (when combined with marijuana), and “beam me up” (when combined with crack cocaine), is an illegal controlled substance. A “controlled substance” is a narcotic whose use, possession and manufacture are all regulated by the government under the United States “Controlled Substances Act”.
This act classifies PCP as a Schedule II drug.1 When a controlled substance such as PCP is listed as a “Schedule II” drug, it means that
- it has a high potential for abuse,
- it has a currently accepted medical use (but with strict limitations) and
- abusing the controlled substance may lead to severe psychological and/or physical dependence.2
Because PCP has very few legitimate uses.and is rarely if ever prescribed.it is almost always illegal. As a result, there are a number of California laws that regulate its possession, use and sale. In this article, our California drug crimes defense attorneys3 provide an overview of these laws by addressing the following:
- 1. A Primer on PCP
- 2. California Drug Laws Regulating PCP’s Possession, Use and Sales
- 2.1. Health and Safety Code 11377 HS — California’s “personal possession of a controlled substance” law
- 2.2. Health and Safety Code 11378.5 HS — California’s “possession or purchase of a controlled substance
for sale” law
- 2.3. Health and Safety Code 11379.5 HS — California’s law against “transporting or selling PCP”
- 2.4. Health and Safety Code 11550 HS — California’s “being under the influence of a controlled substance” law
- 2.5. Driving under the influence of drugs
- 3. Legal Defenses to California
If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
Originally developed in the 1950s as an intravenous anesthetic, PCP was never approved for human use because of its reported serious adverse psychological side effects (patients became agitated, delusional and irrational while recovering from the drug’s anesthetic effects).4 Its current medical uses are limited to veterinary (that is, animal) anesthetics and tranquilizers.5
PCP was first introduced as a street drug in the 1960s. When manufactured or sold illegally, PCP typically comes in tablets, capsules, “crystals”, powder, or liquid and is orally injected, smoked or snorted. Tablets are often mixed with Ecstasy (also commonly referred to as “X”).6
Depending on (1) its dose, and (2) the manner in which it is ingested, PCP can act as
- a stimulant (that is, a drug that “speeds up” or “stimulates” mental and/or physical abilities),
- a depressant (a drug that “slows down” these same functions),
- an analgesic (a narcotic used to decrease pain), or
- a hallucinogen (a drug that alters perception and mood).7
PCP’s effects can be felt within anywhere from a couple minutes to an hour, depending on how it is used, and can last anywhere from 11 to 51 hours. And because PCP is primarily manufactured illegally, a user really has no way of knowing the exact dose he/she is consuming. This makes PCP an extremely dangerous drug.8
Positive (yet, nevertheless, potentially dangerous) reported side effects include feelings of power, strength and invulnerability. Negative side effects — which, perhaps are responsible for the decrease in PCP’s use — include
- a detached sense from one’s environment,
- mood disturbances (including severe anxiety),
- memory loss,
- depression, and
- difficulty thinking and speaking.9
Because PCP has no legitimate human medical purposes within California, its possession, use and sales are strictly regulated. Engaging in any of these activities subjects you to prosecution under a number of different laws.
The following are some of the most common California drug crimes that regulate PCP.
You violate Health & Safety Code 11377 HS California’s law against personally possessing a controlled substance when you possess PCP without a valid prescription. This means that if you hold a valid prescription for PCP — written by a veterinarian and used only in the manner in which it was prescribed — you do not violate this law.
If however, you do not have a valid prescription.or are abusing that prescription by personally consuming this narcotic. You violate this law simply by possessing PCP.10
This law also prohibits possessing a number of other controlled substances as well. Some of these include (but are not limited to):
- gamma-hydroxybutyricc acid (commonly known as “GHB”),
- specific anabolic steroids, and
- ketamine (“special K” or “K”).11
Personally possessing PCP in California is a misdemeanor for most defendants. If convicted, you face up to one year in county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.12
(The exception is if you have a prior conviction either for certain serious violent felonies, such as murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or for a crime that requires you to register as a sex offender. In that case, PCP possession will be charged as a felony carrying up to three (3) years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.)
A conviction for personal possession of PCP — as opposed to possession of PCP for sale (discussed below) — may allow you to participate in a drug diversion program in lieu of jail or prison. California’s “drug diversion” is available through
If you successfully complete drug diversion, your PCP charge(s) will be dismissed at the end of the program.
Health and Safety Code 11378.5 HS California’s “possession or purchase of PCP for sale” law is a more serious violation than HS 11377 above. This crime not only involves possessing PCP, but also involves possessing or purchasing the drug with the intent to sell it to another person/organization.15
A conviction for possessing or purchasing PCP for sale subjects you to a felony punishable by three, four or five years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.16 However, if the weight of the PCP that you are convicted of possessing exceeds one kilogram (or 30 liters by liquid volume), you face an additional three to fifteen years in prison17.
And if you violate California’s law against possessing or purchasing PCP for sale, and the illegal activity took place upon the grounds of — or within 1,000 feet of — a
- drug treatment center,
- “detox” facility or
- homeless shelter,
you face an additional one year in the state prison regardless of the amount of the PCP.18
But if your California criminal defense lawyer can convince the judge/jury that you only possessed the PCP for personal use, or can negotiate a plea bargain to the lesser charge of HS 11377, you may be entitled to escape incarceration by participating in drug diversion. If, however, you are convicted of possessing or purchasing PCP for sale, diversion is not available.
It’s also important to realize that you can be convicted of a crime for possessing the materials required to manufacture PCP, so long as you intend to use those materials to manufacture the drug. Under Health & Safety Code 11383 HS, this crime is a serious felony, with a potential jail sentence of two (2), four (4) or six (6) years.
California Health and Safety Code 11379.5 HS prohibits transporting (for sale) or selling PCP. If you transport for sale or sell PCP — or engage in any of the other acts prohibited under this code — you face a felony, punishable by three, four or five years in prison and the same fine.19 If, however, you are convicted of transporting PCP for sale across more than two counties, your prison sentence increases to three, six, or nine years.20
The same additional prison terms for having over one kilogram or 30 liters of PCP.mentioned under HS 11378 above.apply to this offense as well.21
And if you knew — or reasonably should have known — that the recipient of the PCP
- was pregnant,
- had previously been convicted of a violent felony, or
- was being treated for a mental health disorder or for a drug problem,
the judge can use such facts to punish you to the fullest extent allowed by law. This means that when three prison terms are available.such as a two, three, or four-year sentence.the judge will likely sentence you to the highest term.22
∗Finally, if you are a legal immigrant or legal alien, a conviction for any of these California PCP-related crimes could additionally lead to deportation.23 For more information about how California drug offenses affect aliens, please review our article on California Crimes that Lead to Deportation.
If, at the time of your arrest, you were allegedly under the influence of PCP, prosecutors will likely charge you with Health and Safety Code 11550 HS California’s “being under the influence of a controlled substance” law.24 With respect to an HS 11550 charge, you are “under the influence” of a narcotic when your physical and/or mental abilities are impaired in “any detectable manner”.25
California’s law against being under the influence of PCP is a misdemeanor subjecting you to up to one year in county jail. However, eligible defendants may be entitled to participate in drug diversion in lieu of incarceration.26
You violate Vehicle Code 23152f VC California’s driving under the influence of drugs law when you drive under the influence of PCP. And while this law is similar to HS 11550 above, the two crimes have very different definitions of what it means to be “under the influence”.
You drive “under the influence” of PCP when the PCP has “so far affected the nervous system, the brain, or muscles as to impair to an appreciable degree the ability to operate a vehicle in a manner like that of an ordinarily prudent and cautious person in full possession of his faculties.”27
Most convictions for this offense are misdemeanors, subjecting you to fines and potential jail time. Drug diversion is not applicable to a California conviction for driving under the influence of PCP.
The exact charge(s) that you face will determine which legal defenses your California drug crimes defense lawyer will present on your behalf. That said, there are a handful of common defenses that typically arise in connection with PCP — and for that matter.many other California drug-related offenses.
As Ventura criminal defense attorney Darrell York28 explains, “Generally speaking, California drug investigations trigger a variety of potential legal defenses, since many of these investigations involve undercover operations. Undercover operations routinely involve police misconduct — misconduct that can ultimately absolve you of any criminal wrongdoing.”
Some of the most common defenses to California PCP-related offenses include (but are not limited to):
- violations of California’s search and seizure laws (which take place when, for example, the police search you without first obtaining a California search warrant or seize PCP that was discovered beyond the scope of a warrant),
- the legal defense of entrapment (applicable to situations where you only commit a California PCP-related offense because the police coerced you into doing so), and
- outright innocence (which is the case when, for example, the police mistakenly attribute someone else’s PCP to you).
Call us for help.
We can provide a free consultation in the office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.
Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys are available to answer any questions about Nevada’s PCP drug laws. For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.29
- California Health and Safety Code 11055 HS — Schedule II; substances included. (“(a) The controlled substances listed in this section are included in Schedule II. (e) Depressants. Unless specifically excepted or unless listed in another schedule, any material, compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of the following substances having a depressant effect on the central nervous system, including its salts, isomers, and salts of isomers whenever the existence of those salts, isomers, and salts of isomers is possible within the specific chemical designation: (1) Amobarbital. (2) Pentobarbital. (3) Phencyclidines, including the following: (A) 1-(1-phenylcyclohexyl) piperidine (PCP)..”)
- 21 U.S.C. Section 812 — The United States Controlled Substances Act. (“(a) Establishment. There are established five schedules of controlled substances, to be known as schedules I, II, III, IV, and V. Such schedules shall initially consist of the substances listed in this section. The schedules established by this section shall be updated and republished on a semiannual basis during the two-year period beginning one year after October 27, 1970, and shall be updated and republished on an annual basis thereafter. (b) Placement on schedules; findings required Except where control is required by United States obligations under an international treaty, convention, or protocol, in effect on October 27, 1970, and except in the case of an immediate precursor, a drug or other substance may not be placed in any schedule unless the findings required for such schedule are made with respect to such drug or other substance. The findings required for each of the schedules are as follows:(1) Schedule I. – (A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse. (B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. (C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision. (2) Schedule II. – (A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse. (B) The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions [this is where California PCP-related offenses are included]. (C) Abuse of the drug or other substances may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.(3) Schedule III. – (A) The drug or other substance has a potential for abuse less than the drugs or other substances in schedules I and II. (B) The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. (C) Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence. (4) Schedule IV. – (A) The drug or other substance has a low potential for abuse relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule III. (B) The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. (C) Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule III. (5) Schedule V. – (A) The drug or other substance has a low potential for abuse relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule IV. (B) The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. (C) Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to limited physical dependence or psychological dependence relative to the drugs or other substances in schedule IV.(c) Initial schedules of controlled substances Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V shall, unless and until amended pursuant to section 811 of this title, consist of the following drugs or other substances, by whatever official name, common or usual name, chemical name, or brand name designated.”).
- Our California drug crimes defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier. We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse – PCP/Phencyclidine. (“Developed in the 1950s as an IV anesthetic, PCP was never approved for human use because of problems during clinical studies, including intensely negative psychological effects.”)See also National Institute on Drug Abuse – InfoFacts on Hallucinogens. Section on PCP.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Drugs and Human Performance Facts Sheets – PCP/Phencyclidine. (“Medical and Recreational Uses: Formerly used as a surgical anesthetic, however, there is no current legitimate medical use in humans. Used as a veterinary anesthetic or tranquilizer. Recreationally used as a psychedelic and hallucinogen.”)
- U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration. Drugs and Chemicals of Concern: PCP/Phencyclidine. (“Illicit Distribution: PCP is available in powder, crystal, tablet, capsule, and liquid forms. It is most commonly sold in powder and liquid forms. Tablets sold as MDMA (Ecstasy) occasionally are found to contain PCP.”)
- Neuroscience for kids – PCP. (“It [PCP] can act as a stimulant, a depressant, an analgesic (decreasing pain) or a hallucinogen depending on the dose and route of administration.”)
- See same. (“Depending on how a person takes the drug, the effects are felt within a few minutes (2-5 minutes when smoked) to an hour. PCP can stay in a person’s body for a long time; the half-life of PCP ranges from 11 to 51 hours. Furthermore, because PCP is made illegally under uncontrolled conditions, users have no way of knowing how much PCP they are taking. This makes PCP especially dangerous.”)
- See National Institute on Drug Abuse – InfoFacts on Hallucinogens, endnote 4, above. (“However, some users continue to use PCP due to the feelings of strength, power, and invulnerability as well as a numbing effect on the mind that PCP can induce. Among the adverse psychological effects reported are- Symptoms that mimic schizophrenia, such as delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, disordered thinking, and a sensation of distance from one’s environment. Mood disturbances: Approximately 50 percent of individuals brought to emergency rooms because of PCP-induced problems-related to use within the past 48 hours-report significant elevations in anxiety symptoms.4 People who have abused PCP for long periods of time have reported memory loss, difficulties with speech and thinking, depression, and weight loss.”)
- California Health and Safety Code 11377 HS – Possession of a controlled substance. (“(a) Except as authorized by law and as otherwise provided in subdivision (b) or Section 11375, or in Article 7 (commencing with Section 4211) of Chapter 9 of Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code, every person who possesses any controlled substance which is (1) classified in Schedule III, IV, or V, and which is not a narcotic drug, (2) specified in subdivision (d) of Section 11054, except paragraphs (13), (14), (15), and (20) of subdivision (d), (3) specified in paragraph (11) of subdivision (c) of Section 11056, (4) specified in paragraph (2) or (3) of subdivision (f) of Section 11054, or (5) specified in subdivision (d) ,(e), or, unless upon the prescription of a physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian, licensed to practice in this state, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year, except that such person may instead be punished pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code if that person has one or more prior convictions for an offense specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667 of the Penal Code or for an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290 of the Penal Code.”)
- See Same. The drugs listed in this section are all contained in the subsections referred to under this law.
- See Health and Safety Code 11377 HS California’s law against possession of PCP, endnote 10, above. See also California Penal Code 18 PC — Punishment for felony not otherwise prescribed; alternate sentence to county jail. (“Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a felony, or to be punishable by imprisonment in a state prison, is punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons for 16 months, or two or three years; provided, however, every offense which is prescribed by any law of the state to be a felony punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons or by a fine, but without an alternate sentence to the county jail, may be punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or by a fine, or by both.”)See also California Penal Code 672 PC — Offenses for which no fine prescribed; fine authorized in addition to imprisonment. (“Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies, in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.”)
- California Penal Code 1210.1 PC (also known as Proposition 36) — Possession of Controlled Substances; Probation; Exceptions.
- California Penal Code 1000 PC — Application of chapter to certain violations. (“(a) This chapter shall apply whenever a case is before any court upon an accusatory pleading for a violation of Section 11350, 11357, 11364, 11365, 11377 [such as a California personal possession of PCP charge], or 11550 of the Health and Safety Code, or subdivision (b) of Section 23222 of the Vehicle Code, or Section 11358 of the Health and Safety Code if the marijuana planted, cultivated, harvested, dried, or processed is for personal use, or Section 11368 of the Health and Safety Code if the narcotic drug was secured by a fictitious prescription and is for the personal use of the defendant and was not sold or furnished to another, or subdivision (d) of Section 653f if the solicitation was for acts directed to personal use only, or Section 381 or subdivision (f) of Section 647 of the Penal Code, if for being under the influence of a controlled substance, or Section 4060 of the Business and Professions Code, and it appears to the prosecuting attorney that, except as provided in subdivision (b) of Section 11357 of the Health and Safety Code, all of the following apply to the defendant: (1) The defendant has no conviction for any offense involving controlled substances prior to the alleged commission of the charged offense. (2) The offense charged did not involve a crime of violence or threatened violence. (3) There is no evidence of a violation relating to narcotics or restricted dangerous drugs other than a violation of the sections listed in this subdivision. (4) The defendant’s record does not indicate that probation or parole has ever been revoked without thereafter being completed. (5) The defendant’s record does not indicate that he or she has successfully completed or been terminated from diversion or deferred entry of judgment pursuant to this chapter within five years prior to the alleged commission of the charged offense. (6) The defendant has no prior felony conviction within five years prior to the alleged commission of the charged offense. (b) The prosecuting attorney shall review his or her file to determine whether or not paragraphs (1) to (6), inclusive, of subdivision (a) apply to the defendant. Upon the agreement of the prosecuting attorney, law enforcement, the public defender, and the presiding judge of the criminal division of the superior court, or a judge designated by the presiding judge, this procedure shall be completed as soon as possible after the initial filing of the charges. If the defendant is found eligible, the prosecuting attorney shall file with the court a declaration in writing or state for the record the grounds upon which the determination is based, and shall make this information available to the defendant and his or her attorney. This procedure is intended to allow the court to set the hearing for deferred entry of judgment at the arraignment. If the defendant is found ineligible for deferred entry of judgment, the prosecuting attorney shall file with the court a declaration in writing or state for the record the grounds upon which the determination is based, and shall make this information available to the defendant and his or her attorney. The sole remedy of a defendant who is found ineligible for deferred entry of judgment is a postconviction appeal. (c) All referrals for deferred entry of judgment granted by the court pursuant to this chapter shall be made only to programs that have been certified by the county drug program administrator pursuant to Chapter 1.5 (commencing with Section 1211) of Title 8, or to programs that provide services at no cost to the participant and have been deemed by the court and the county drug program administrator to be credible and effective. The defendant may request to be referred to a program in any county, as long as that program meets the criteria set forth in this subdivision. (d) Deferred entry of judgment for a violation of Section 11368 of the Health and Safety Code shall not prohibit any administrative agency from taking disciplinary action against a licensee or from denying a license. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to expand or restrict the provisions of Section 1000.4. (e) Any defendant who is participating in a program referred to in this section may be required to undergo analysis of his or her urine for the purpose of testing for the presence of any drug as part of the program. However, urine analysis results shall not be admissible as a basis for any new criminal prosecution or proceeding.”)
- Health and Safety Code 11378.5 HS — California’s law against possessing PCP for sale; punishment. (“Except as otherwise provided in Article 7 (commencing with Section 4211) of Chapter 9 of Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code, every person who possesses for sale phencyclidine or any analog or any precursor of phencyclidine which is specified in paragraph (21), (22), or (23) of subdivision (d) of Section 11054 or in paragraph (3) of subdivision (e) or in subdivision (f), except subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (f), of Section 11055, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of three, four, or five years.”)
- See same.See also See also California Penal Code 672 PC — Offenses for which no fine prescribed, endnote 12, above.
- California Health and Safety Code 11370.4 HS — Convictions under specified sections with respect to PCP.
- California Health and Safety Code 11380.7 HS — Additional penalty for trafficking violation on the grounds of, or within 1,000 feet of, drug treatment center, detoxification facility, or homeless shelter; mitigating factors; definitions.
- California Health and Safety Code 11379.5 HS — Transportation, sale, furnishing, etc. of designated substances including phencyclidine; punishment.
- See same.
- See endnote 17, above.
- California Penal Code 1170.82 PC — Controlled substances; sale or transfer; aggravation of crime. (“Upon a conviction of a violation of Section 11352, 11360, 11379, or 11379.5 [California’s law against selling or transporting PCP] of the Health and Safety Code, the fact that the person who committed the offense knew, or reasonably should have known, that any of the following circumstances existed with regard to the person to whom he or she unlawfully sold, furnished, administered, or gave away a controlled substance, shall be a circumstance in aggravation of the crime in imposing a term pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 1170: (a) The person was pregnant at the time of the selling, furnishing, administering, or giving away of the controlled substance. (b) The person had been previously convicted of a violent felony, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5. (c) The person was in psychological treatment for a mental disorder or for substance abuse at the time of the selling, furnishing, administering, or giving away of the controlled substance.”)
- 8 U.S. Code Section 1227 — Deportable aliens. (“(a) Classes of deportable aliens. Any alien (including an alien crewman) in and admitted to the United States shall, upon the order of the Attorney General, be removed if the alien is within one or more of the following classes of deportable aliens. (2) Criminal offenses. (B) Controlled substances. (i) Conviction. Any alien who at any time after admission has been convicted of a violation of (or a conspiracy or attempt to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance (as defined in section 802 of Title 21), other than a single offense involving possession for one’s own use of 30 grams or less of marijuana, is deportable. And because PCP is a controlled substance, it is a California crime that could lead to deportation.
- California Health and Safety Code 11550 HS — Under the influence.
- See Health and Safety Code 11550 HS California’s Under the influence of PCP law, endnote 24, above.
- See People v. Enriquez, endnote 25, above.
- Ventura criminal defense lawyer Darrell York uses his former experience as a Glendale Police Officer to represents clients at the Ventura Hall of Justice, the Van Nuys courthouse, the Pasadena courthouse, the Burbank courthouse, the Glendale courthouse, the Lancaster courthouse, the San Fernando courthouse, and the Criminal Courts Building.
- Please feel free to contact our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Neil Shouse for any questions relating to Nevada’s drug crimes. Our Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.